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Religious Watch


24th June
2008
  

Update: Terminating Usenet...

California urges its ISPs to ban access to Usenet

Usenet.com logo California's governor and attorney general are asking Internet service providers to follow the lead of Verizon Communications, Time Warner Cable, and Sprint in blocking the wide ranging Usenet. This is over concerns that a few news groups are used to disseminate child porn.

Protecting the safety of our children must be a top priority, not just for government, but also for businesses with the direct power to reduce the ability to conduct illegal activity, they said in a joint letter to the California Internet Service Provider Association.

Schwarzenegger and Brown said in their letter that it's important that ISPs in California take action that is similar to the steps Verizon, Time Warner, and Sprint have agreed to in New York. The Internet Service Provider Association is the largest association of Internet service providers in the country, representing more than 100 ISPs. These providers include small ISPs, as well as big ones such as AT&T and AOL.

While no one disagrees that distributing child pornography is illegal, some civil liberty experts worry that the way in which ISPs will block access to it could limit free speech for people discussing and distributing perfectly legal content.

For example, Time Warner Cable said it will cease to offer customers access to any Usenet newsgroups, a decision that will affect customers nationwide. Sprint said it would no longer offer any of the tens of thousands of alt.* Usenet newsgroups. Verizon's plan is to eliminate some "fairly broad newsgroup areas."

My colleague Declan McCullagh points out in a story he wrote following the New York announcement that this tactic will most likely silence thousands of legitimate user groups that use the alt.* hierarchy for Usenet discussions.

 

12th July
2008
  

Update: AOL Hell...

US ISPs falling over themselves to ban more and more of usenet

Usenet.com logo Bowing to continued pressure from the New York Attorney General, two more big-name American ISPs have shutdown access to dozens of Usenet newsgroups that contain child pornography - and many more that don't.

AT&T and AOL have agreed to eliminate access to usenet newsgroups where state investigations have turned up nearly 11,000 sexually lewd photos featuring prepubescent children.

This follows similar promises from Time Warner Cable, Sprint, and Verizon. All five of these mega-ISPs have also agreed to rid their web servers of child pornography, as identified by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC).

And some have gone even further. Time Warner, AT&T and AOL decided to extend their Usenet crackdowns well beyond the 88 groups flagged by the AG.

AT&T will eliminate direct access to all binary newsgroups - i.e. all groups that serve up full-blown data files.

Meanwhile, AOL tells the The Associated Press it will block access to every newsgroup there is - binary and ASCII.

Update: Cable & Broadband ISPs Toe the Line

24th July 2008

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association Thursday announced that 18 of the nation's largest cable and broadband Internet service providers have agreed to block access to any Web sites known to host or distribute illegal child pornography files.

By signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU), these cable operators serving 87%, or more than 112 million homes, of Internet service subscribers will work with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG).

In addition, the member companies will also report any instances of child pornography they unearth to the NCMEC CyberTipline and, where appropriate, revise their policies around other potential sources of child pornography such as newsgroups and other online bulletin boards.

 

25th September
2008
  

Update: No News...is Censorship...

Comcast terminates its usenet newsgroup service

Usenet.com logo Comcast has joined the list of ISPs who are denying access to Usenet newsgroups in a 'voluntary' agreement to fight child porn online.

Comcast released a statement back in July saying officials planned to sign on after New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo threatened legal action.

Cuomo employed the same hard-nosed legal threats in order to obtain signatures from AOL, AT&T, Verizon and 13 other cable providers, supporting his campaign.

Comcast posted a notice on its website over the weekend informing users that its newsgroup services had been terminated.

Theoretically the agreement requests ISPs take measures to eliminate child porn websites and Usenet newsgroups containing child pornography from their servers. Unfortunately the ISPs seem to be removing a large amount of non-contentious content as well.

 

10th June
2009
  

Update: NoUseNet...

US major ISP ends Usenet service

at&t logo AT&T has dealt another blow to the internet service known as Usenet.

Sometime next month, the American telecom giant will terminate its entire newsgroup service. Please note that on or around July 15, 2009, AT&T will no longer be offering access to the Usenet netnews service, reads a note sent to AT&T and posted on the company's Usenet servers.

Last July, bowing to pressure from grandstanding New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, AT&T eliminated access to all alt.binary newsgroups. As he had done with AOL, Time Warner Cable, Sprint, and Verizon, Cuomo coaxed AT&T into signing an agreement that cut the cord to 88 newsgroups where state investigations had turned up child abuse images

But like many of its ISP brethren, AT&T chose to extend this ostensible porn crackdown beyond those 88 groups. First they censored the entire alt.binary newsgroup architecture, Now they are halting the entire service.